Voices from the Victims of Naphtha Cracker Pollution in Taiwan

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Residents in the area of a petrochemical processing plant in Taiwan’s western Yulin County are at risk for exposure to several toxic air pollutants that can cause various diseases, including cancers, according to a report by researchers from the National Taiwan University.

The comprehensive research on the impact of Formosa Plastics Group’s naphtha cracker No. 6, released in July 2012, found that among the pollutants to which residents are likely to be exposed is the carcinogenic and liver-damaging vinyl chloride, which is an essential raw material in the manufacturing of PVC and other plastic products.

The findings echo those of the US Environmental Protection Agency, which saw “extensive” violations at Formosa Plastics’ plants in Louisiana and Texas in 2009. The Taiwanese company paid a settlement worth 13 million US dollars in that case to the US Department of Justice.

The Yulin Country naphtha cracker was met with public opposition over its possible health consequences from the start of construction in 1992. In 2009, the local government, which had welcomed the investment in their area, agreed to invite researchers from the National Taiwan University to conduct a three-year study to evaluate the health risk in relation to the complex.

Their damning results have inspired residents to take up a possible lawsuit against the Formosa Plastics Group [zh]. Jung Sheng-Hsiung reported on the progress at public news portal PNN:

台西鄉民陳財能則說,他的父親、母親、姊姊、哥哥,甚至年僅19歲的兒子,都因為肝硬化過世,他自己也罹患肝硬化5年 […]「有人說我愛『牽拖』,但如果真的是我爸爸的『種』不好,為何我嫁去外地的三個姊姊都沒事,只有留在當地的人生病死亡?」陳財能強調,六輕讓當地居 民活在威脅之中[…]如果居民為了後代子子孫孫,決定對台塑六輕提起集體訴訟,他一定第一個加入。

Tsai-Neng Chen, who lives in Taishi, told me that his parents and sister and brother and son died because of liver cirrhosis. His son was only 19 years old when he died. Tsai-Neng Chen himself also has suffered liver cirrhosis for five years […] “Some people said that I ‘imagine’ the correlation. However, if this disease is due to genetic problems from my father, why are my three sisters who moved out after they got married still healthy and fit? Only us who stayed here get sick and die.” Tsai-Neng Chen emphasized the threat faced by all the residents of the area by the Naphtha Cracker Complex […] If the residents care about their future generations and decide to file a lawsuit against Formosa Plastic Group, he will be the first one to join.

The study has also prompted other nearby areas like Chuanhua County to push for a similar investigation into their situation. Chuanhua County is located north of the plant, and when the summer south wind blows, residents fear that it might carry some of the same air pollutants with it.

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